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Serato Scratch Live

Serato Scratch Live


Serato’s Scratch Live digital DJing software has been popular with DJs such as Jazzy Jeff, A-Trak, Felix Da Housecat and Bonobo. We explore why these jocks love it so much…

With Native Instruments releasing the T2 version of their popular Traktor software, we thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the other heavyweight pro option for digital DJs using DVS systems. Serato’s Scratch Live has come a long way since its original inception — with various additions to the main programme for selectors to choose from — but the essential ethos of Serato’s love for traditional good old DJing skills still remains, especially in the Live incarnation of their software.
Serato also make a product called Itch that takes its lead from their main programme Scratch Live. It is a slightly different animal, in that it’s mainly for digital DJs who do not want to use vinyl or CD control and prefer to adopt the wealth of controllers on offer, that come with Itch supplied as standard.

Scratch Live is, in its purest form, traditional DJing taken digital. The set up is simple: DJs use turntables or CDJ decks and a mixer to control the software. This is essentially the typical old school set-up of two decks and a mixer, with each channel of Scratch Live going to a channel on the mixer. Decks or CD players control the digital audio files that reside on your computer via a time-code, and Scratch Live works out what to play based on that information coming from the wheels of steel or a CDJ player.

We have seen more DJs who exploit Serato opting to use turntables and vinyl to control the software, and DJmag feels that using Scratch Live in this format is the best way to get the true feel and vibe out of Serato’s Scratch. Coincidentally, DMC have partnered up with Serato to open up DVS systems in the DMC World Mixing Championships, as it remains true to the original concept of the competition. DJs who love using decks and vinyl have to realise that the option to play 12 inch records isn’t as readily available as it once was — a lot of music is only being released in digital format these days — so this is, as they say, “the next best thing”

Once Serato Scratch Live is taken out of the box, there are a few ways to hook up the DVS system — either by using Rane’s SL1/SL3 soundcards, or soon there will be the option to use the new dual USB SL4 interface or one of Rane’s mixers with inbuilt Serato integration.
Scratch Live will only work with the official Rane soundcards or mixers, as they have an exclusive licensing deal with Serato, but DJs can still use third party controllers and equipment like Pioneer’s new CDJ range or Denon and Novation’s controllers to manipulate certain functions within Scratch Live. In a nutshell, Serato provide the software and Rane provide the hardware to make this system work as one, like a marriage made in heaven.

One of the nicest features in Serato Live’s interface is the way the physical time-coded vinyl is represented on-screen. As the vinyl turns on the turntable, the virtual deck on-screen turns as well, with a line representing the current point in the track. Another handy visual guide is a circular progress bar that indicates the remaining time left on the track. Visual feedback like this is essential for DJs deep in the mix, and Serato have managed to do this in a slick, non-cluttered way, exactly the way it should be.

Serato also provides a waveform that can be set to either vertical or horizontal view, and the waveforms are displayed in full glorious colour to make it even easier to read and pick out kicks, snares or anything else of interest. The waveform view can also be used as a visual mixing aid. Once two tracks are beat-mixed, their waveforms will move together in unison, making it very easy to spot problems before they become audible. This is made even easier by the way Serato emphasises the transients in the waveform display.

From day one, the manufacturers have managed to get their software working exactly right for DJs. The last thing anyone wants is sluggish response, especially when they have a packed dancefloor and a mix is about to fall apart. Continual improvements to the time-coding elements of the software mean that the response is even tighter than ever, and die-hard traditional scratch DJs will have a great time with Scratch Live.

Anyone who is not familiar with Scratch Live could be forgiven for thinking that although it’s a great piece of software, responsive and ultra-stable, it’s a bit limited when looking at the likes of Traktor. However, this is not the case, as DJs can make full use of neat features like the SP-6 Sample Player, allowing DJs to drop in up to six separate samples and loops of their choice to enhance their sets. In fact, DJs could drop in whole tracks using the SP-6 player on top of what they have going on with the virtual decks — powerful stuff!

Also lurking under that user-friendly interface is a great little add-on called The Bridge, which gives full integration between Scratch Live and Ableton Live. This opens up a whole world of mixing and DJing opportunities for the slightly more tech-savvy DJ and performer. Using The Bridge, it is possible to load up an Ableton Live set and play it using one of Scratch Live’s decks or record mix-tapes from Serato and Ableton whilst recording the track placements, as well as fader and knob movements, all of which can be tweaked and edited later.

Video-SL is another very cool add-on for Scratch Live that adds the ability to mix and scratch video files during DJ sets or live performances. Video files are loaded onto the virtual deck and manipulated via vinyl or CD. Preset video transitions can be triggered manually or by using one of the various automated audio responses. Having a great live show is becoming more important than ever for both DJs and artists, but can often be a technical nightmare to achieve; Serato have made it easy.

The latest incarnation of Scratch Live is one of the most flexible and powerful DVS systems around. Purist DJs who love their vinyl and want to keep it old-skool will adore it, as will anyone wanting to push the boundaries of live performance by using the Bridge to add Ableton Live into the mix or by adding video to their performance.

The great thing about Scratch Live is that it is as simple or as complex as you want it to be. This means that DJs moving over from turntables won’t be left scratching their heads in confusion when they first make the move to digital, and will also have great scope for expanding their performance by incorporating video or Ableton Live at a later date. DJs and artists who are looking to move to a DVS system or upgrade to professional level equipment would be mad not to have a good hard look at what Serato Scratch Live can do for them.

Price   £599.00
Build Quality
Ease of Use   8.0
Features   8.0
Value for Money   8.0
Sound Quality   9.0

Great sound quality and rock-solid operation, keeping the vibe of traditional DJing skills whilst opening up production-style performances with the Ableton Bridge


Tied down to having to use the Rane hardware for the software to work.

Conclusion   Serato Scratch Live is one of the industry standards when it comes to DVS systems, and to be honest, one of the only two options worth looking at for serious pro digital DJing use.
Overall Score   8.2/10